Mexican coastline destination adopts criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1st, 2014) – One of Mexico’s iconic tourism destinations, the Riviera Maya in the State of Quintana  Roo, has become the first destination on the Mexican Caribbean coast to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s  (GSTC) Early Adopter Program.

“At the GSTC we welcomed the decision of Riviera Maya to carry out the Early Adopters program and are proud to have contributed to the advancement of a sustainability agenda in one of the most renowned destinations in the world. We look forward to continuing our support for the organization which spearheaded the EA program, Sustainable Riviera Maya, in its future initiatives,” expressed Luigi Cabrini, Chair of the GSTC Board of Directors.

The Riviera Maya’s rich cultural and natural heritage attracts approximately 4 million tourists a year. It is a world-class destination featuring the best of ancient and living Mayan culture. The Riviera Maya is home to both beautiful beaches and biodiversity, including the Mesoamerican Reef System, which is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Tourism is the key pillar of the local economy, representing 95% of Quintana Roo’s Gross Domestic Product.

The phenomenal tourism growth experienced in the Riviera Maya over the past 20 years has resulted in  significant impacts to its natural and cultural environment.  To respond to this challenge, NGOs and the local government have actively implemented a wide range of sustainable practices in the region, including improved state-level policies and regulations for environmental protection and certification programs for hotels and tourism businesses, all aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and maximizing positive ones.  The results of the destination assessment conducted as part of the GSTC Early Adopter Program showed some significant areas of success, as well as risks that require immediate attention.

The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner, leading destination specialist, and global NGO, Sustainable Travel International. While the evaluation recognized some of Riviera Maya’s significant successes in planning regulations and sustainability standards, it also highlighted the urgent need for shared responsibility of destination-level management. Since the program’s completion, the Quintana Roo Ministry of Tourism has acted quickly and convened a multi-sector destination committee, which will be tasked with developing an action plan and implementing the recommended next steps.

“We recognize the leadership role that Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism played in this process. The destination assessment marks an important step taken by tourism leaders to ensure the fulfillment of the destination’s tagline—Riviera Maya, paradise is forever, “ remarked Seleni Matus, Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean for Sustainable Travel International, who conducted the 10-day on-site assessment

The final evaluation report included key sustainability areas covered by the GSTC Destination Criteria, including destination management, economic and social issues, cultural heritage, and environment. Various organizations and local leaders in tourism were consulted during the process and were given the opportunity to provide their feedback on the destination’s performance.

“The multi-sector committee, comprised of the regions tourism leaders, will work to facilitate an inclusive process for crafting a shared vision for Riviera Maya and shared management of the destination,” proudly voiced Beatriz Barreal, CEO and Founder, Sustainable Riviera Maya. Beatriz was the project liaison for the GSTC-EA and has played a key role in Riviera Maya’s development as a tourism destination.

Riviera Maya’s participation in the GSTC-EA was funded by TUI Travel,  the Futouris foundation, Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism (SEDETUR), Riviera Maya Hotel Association, local tourism businesses and service providers, and a philanthropist.

“The Global Criteria for Destinations, and its recommendations, have provided us with vital guidance on the pathway to more sustainable growth in Riviera Maya” added Manuel Paredes, Riviera Maya Hotel Association, General Director.

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; and educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The Criteria, a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for the sustainability of tourism businesses across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative. For more information, visit

About the GSTC Destination Criteria

A panel of business owners, academics, government officials, and other experts, who examined the UN World Tourism Organization’s Indicators of Sustainable Development and other such guidelines currently in existence, developed the GSTC’s Destination Criteria. Because the criteria are intended to describe a globally applicable set of minimum steps needed to approach sustainability, the criteria are seen as a baseline that each destination should add to or adjust as needed.

The GSTC does not aim to certify destinations as sustainable; rather, the Council will review existing certification standards and acknowledge those that meet their criteria. However, any destination will be able to use the new criteria as a guide to becoming environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable.

About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization with a purpose. Founded in 2002, we enable our partners to harness the power of tourism to leave the world a better place. We build partnerships, share knowledge, and design tools to make tourism more beneficial for everyone. We connect people in destinations and help communities, businesses, and travelers to develop the tools and relationships they need to build a better future through tourism.


Media Contacts: 


Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Jimena Moses and Anja Eckervogt

Strategy and Communications Committee


Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Vice President of Marketing and Communications